When was the last time in a party we found ourselves locked in an intense argument with one of our close friends. What started as a boisterous conversation ended up as intense argument where one party went on to insult the other parties’ character out of the blue deviating from the content of the argument? Now that’s a Classic case of Logical Fallacy Ad Hominem. Again it’s a common situation for all of us to be surrounded by our well-wishers who give us lots of advice when we are confronted with difficult situations. Its funny most of the time the people who advise us might themselves not have the firsthand experience of the situation we are confronted with. I found myself in those situations and criticized my advisors for giving me advice on an issue on which they themselves had no experience to begin with or acted in a way contrarily when confronted with a similar situation to the advice they give. Now that’s Tu Quoque another form of logical fallacy.
Logical Fallacies are found plenty in debates and American Presidential Debates are no exception. Now in the context of American Presidential debate which are of great theatrical value, the presidential contenders do their homework to point out the logical fallacies of their opponents. At times the Presidential debates go off course when one candidate instead of attacking an argument goes for an all assault on the others character Argumentum Ad Hominem glorified! Now when a candidate is making some suggestions about a change in policy regarding economy , healthcare or defense the other candidate goes hammer and tongs how is voting record on those issues is contrary to what he is suggesting Argumentum Tu Quoque in action! This begs for the question what is a Logical Fallacy ? Fallacies are fake or deceptive arguments, arguments that prove nothing. Fallacies often seem superficially sound, and they far too often retain immense persuasive power even after being clearly exposed as false. Though I put a lot of emphasis on Argumentum Ad Hominem and Argumentum Tu Quoque there are a lot more logical fallacies which we identify with but cannot put a name to it. Note that identifying a Logical Fallacy by a name is secondary to actually identifying the fallacy and not to be persuaded by it is the key to understand logical fallacies. Having Said that let me introduce you a gamut of Logical Fallacies.
Straw Man: You misrepresented someone’s argument to make it easier to attack. By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone’s argument, it’s much easier to present your own position as being reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine honest rational debate.
False Cause: You presumed that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.
Appeal To Emotion : You attempted to manipulate an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument.
Fallacy’s Fallacy: You presumed that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has been made, that the claim itself must be wrong.
Slippery Slope: You said that if we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not happen.
Personal Incredulity: Because you found something difficult to understand, or are unaware of how it works, you made out like it’s probably not true.
Special Pleading: You moved the goalposts or made up an exception when your claim was shown to be false.
Loaded Question: You asked a question that had a presumption built into it so that it couldn’t be answered without appearing guilty.
Burden Of Proof: You said that the burden of proof lies not with the person making the claim, but with someone else to disprove.
Ambiguity: You used a double meaning or ambiguity of language to mislead or misrepresent the truth.
The Gambler’s fallacy: You said that ‘runs’ occur to statistically independent phenomena such as roulette wheel spins.
Bandwagon: You appealed to popularity or the fact that many people do something as an attempted form of validation.
Appeal to Authority: You said that because an authority thinks something, it must therefore be true.
Composition/Division: You assumed that one part of something has to be applied to all, or other, parts of it; or that the whole must apply to its parts.
No True Scotsman: You made what could be called an appeal to purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws of your argument.
Genetic: You judged something as either good or bad on the basis of where it comes from, or from whom it came.
Black-or-White: You presented two alternative states as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist.
Begging The question: You presented a circular argument in which the conclusion was included in the premise.
Appeal To Nature: You argued that because something is ‘natural’ it is therefore valid, justified, inevitable, good or ideal.
Anecdotal: You used a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence
The Texas Sharpshooter: You cherry-picked a data cluster to suit your argument, or found a pattern to fit a presumption.
Middle Ground: You claimed that a compromise, or middle point, between two extremes must be the truth.
The list I provided is far by all inclusive There’s a lot more literature out there for those interested in exploring further. So Now I think we are all in a better position to pin point the fault in an argument and not get swayed away by the persuasive power of a false argument. Easier Said than done !